Parenting: Whose Advice Can You Trust?
By Jody Johnston Pawel, LSW, CFLE
When we look at who parents go to for parenting advice, we see that quite often, unbeknownst to the parents, the sources might not be as well-versed in proven-effective parenting practices as one might assume. Consider the following "expert" parents consult:
Psychologists: Those who are still of the "old school" traditionally use Skinnerian "behavior modification techniques" which use external controls, like rewards, sticker charts, incentives and punishments that focus on the parent's power and control and make sure children suffer or are inconvenienced somehow. Decades worth of long-term research have consistently proven these methods only get short-term results and are counter-productive in the long-run. (See www.AlfieKohn.org) Even Skinner recanted his own findings late in his life, citing that "humans have deeper motivations than rats."
Bottom line: Psychologists who stay abreast of family research will not suggest these proven-ineffective tactics. Therefore, asking professionals their opinion about these tactics is a good way to determine which psychologists are reliable sources of advice.
Pediatricians are trained in medical school and are educated about typical and abnormal developmental stages. They are not, however, traditionally trained in research-based effective parenting techniques. A good pediatrician will have done independent research and training in effective parenting, but don't assume every pediatrician has. Some might give advice based on their personal opinion or "common practices" that might not be proven effective.
Bottom line: All pediatricians are qualified to answer medical questions, but not all are qualified to answer child-rearing and parenting questions.
Our parents and other parents we know and respect. They might have gotten the results we want, but there is no guarantee we will get those results. Since we are raising our children in a different time/era than our parents and our kids are different than other parents', their methods might not be the "most effective."
Bottom line: Just because someone is a parent, even a "good" one, even if they have many, many children, it doesn't mean their advice will reliably work for you or many other parents. There are too many unaccounted-for variables.
"Parent Coaches" learn coaching techniques and then apply them to their work with parents. They are not required nor do many have any formal education, training or professional experience in child development, family systems theory, or parenting theories or practices. They often assume parenting is "common sense" and simply support the parent in finding his/her own solutions without providing education, information and practical skill training.
Bottom line: If you already have great parenting skills and have the answers to your questions, coaches can help you discover those within yourself. If, however, you've not had great role models or don't have good parenting knowledge or proven-effective skills, then you need to be sure your coach has some kind of specialized parent coaching certification, like the Parents Toolshop Advisor Certification.
Therapists do have to have formal education, training or professional experience in child development and family systems theory to be licensed --- but not any knowledge of parenting theories or knowledge of proven-effective parenting practices. In fact, when I do CEU training programs for Master's level counselors, psychologists and even PhD's I've repeatedly heard them complain about this fact.
Bottom line: Unless your therapist has received specialized training (like the Parents Toolshop CEU Home Study) they are best to see when working out serious issues that have not improved after you have learned proven-effective parenting techniques and have used them long enough to see you are not getting the results most parents get.
Most certified parent educators or family life educators will give helpful advice because they have received specialized training, education and skill development from the providers of the curriculum they use. Not all these curriculum programs, however, teach "proven-effective" parenting practices.
Bottom line: Ask to see the "outcome results" for the parenting program you are attending (like the 10-years of outcome results for Parents Toolshop programs). If they don't have any, then there is no proof that what they teach will work.
For more information and suggestions on handling unhelpful advice, read more articles on this topic by Jody Pawel or opt-in for the Parents Toolshop's FREE 7-day introductory e-course and get the following bonus reports:
- "Top 10 Parenting Myths Most Parents - and Some Professionals - Believe And Truths Everyone Should Know" (Day 11)
- "The Common Sense Guide To Screening & Weeding Parenting Advice." (Day 13)
- To get these two articles only, send an e-mail to: Pawelfirstname.lastname@example.org (You will be asked to verify your request to receive e-mails from Parents Toolshop.)
About the Author:
Jody Johnston Pawel, LSW, CFLE is a second-generation parent educator, founder of The Family Network, award-winning author of The Parent's Toolshop book and President of Parents Toolshop Consulting. She has 25+ years experience as a workshop trainer and parenting expert to the media worldwide, including Parents magazine and the Ident-a-Kid television series. She currently serves as the online parenting expert for Cox Ohio Publishing's mom-to-mom websites and also serves on the Advisory Board of the National Effective Parenting Initiative.
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